What have we learned? What went back and stayed the same? What has changed and feels new?
If you’ve been here to parks, backyards and block parties, newly reopened clubs and bars – and even new ones – you know that over the past month New York’s music culture has been slowly growing. but surely come back to life, and the feeling was … different. For all the columns wasted on getting back to normal, or celebrating, dunno, Foo Fighters at Madison Square Garden or Springsteen on Broadway (or a new concert hall with a rooftop pool that only VIPs and artists can use), the reality at street level is that the city’s musical reopening is driven by neighborhoods and by local culture. And this new reality has come with its own rules.
Yes, live music and dance floors are booming! Free events are packed. Paid shows are sold out. RSVPs fill up in the blink of an eye. Your favorite touring band or superstar DJ still might not have a place to play, as many old-school clubs and all corporate-owned venues haven’t reopened, continuing to struggle to understand the rhythm of the moment, the Covid protocols and the routines of the public. But local communities, “stages” and street corners absolutely jostle – even (especially?) In times of heatwave.
With this shift in energy come learnings, ideas and new truisms, practices that audiences and artists should consider adapting to (or perhaps rebelling) in order to push everyone’s re-engagement with the marvelous. musical act towards a better future. For those who have returned to live music or are about to do so, here are some subjective thoughts on where we are, how it is going, and what you need to know in a month.
The first thing you should do before you leave home is – check the vaccination protocols and policy of your destination. We are not going to debate whether or not to be vaccinated; simply stating the fact that your live music options without vaccine are much slimmer, as my experience is that most venues expect you to have proof of vaccination for entry. So take your card, or maybe consider downloading the New York State Excelsior pass app (which is pretty easy). Also: The places are crowded! This is especially true for the dance halls, which led the way with exceptional energy – the June Pride events only added to that feeling. So please recognize that social distancing and masking protocols are essentially gone. If this is a problem for you, it might be worth considering whether you are really ready to attend that club gig.
Buy tickets in advance or don’t forget to confirm your attendance at any event you wish to attend, because experience has shown that anything with limited capacity sells. This especially applies to that midweek performance in a small bar or club that you will often find in Bklyn Sounds lists, which, before the pandemic, may have always had one or two extra spaces, or willing to you hurry, but now has capacity problems. Take it from someone who has already been burned several times by this inattention to the new standards, call ahead.
Watch out for price increases, which is sometimes unrestrained. Part of this is understandable under the circumstances: Musicians and independent venues have made very little money over the past year and want to make up for lost time. Meanwhile, the common post-quarantine media narrative built around an audience with a year of unused disposable income (rather than around those who have also lost their own livelihoods) only justifies the odd pricing structures. This includes places that set an absurd standard ticket price regardless of the artist, adding automatic tips on all food and drink purchases or, worse yet, adopting the “two drink minimum” policy. Which has made jazz clubs haunts of economic inequality for years. . Frankly, none of this is OK, or sustainable.
Conversely, more and more shows are performed in venues that do not charge entry, but expect the assembled audience to pay / tip at the end of the set. (The suggested donation of $ 10 being the norm.) While this seems like a dangerous policy for the future of healthy living musicians, it also seems very current (although the tip bucket / hat idea is also old like live music itself). So if you find yourself in this situation, consider giving a generous tip to your essential musicians, whether in the bucket or on Venmo. It’s the ethical way to circulate dollars.
Most importantly, continue to support music culture in hyper-local ways – whether it’s the musicians or the people who put them on stage – and remember to stay safe by setting a manageable long-distance beat for your participation and your consumption. Don’t burn yourself out! Brooklyn’s post-pandemic summer of live music has started off safely and beautifully. The July 4th long weekend is full of great musical options. Let’s continue the whole thing.
OUR CHOICES 7/2 – 7/8
Start your long weekend with great dance music options to suit all senses and sensibilities. Friday evening / night (7/2), Bed-Stuy’s Sugar Hill nightclub space hosts Fourth World, a now legendary Independence Weekend rave whose lineup is a who’s who of the borough’s techno community, which over the past half-decade has become an increasingly fortified safe space for queer and trans artists, many of whom are showing. This includes Gavilan Rayna Russom, Jasmine Infniti, and Russell EL Butler, among others. If you’re into techno, this long night will soothe your soul. This year, Fourth World is being co-produced by Community Bread, a gay-owned and operated streaming platform. (Early tix sold out, but 100 will be held at the door and resale has been activated.) (217 Nostrand Avenue, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., $ 60)
Also on the Friday (7/2) dance-card evening but less techno marathon and more shimmy disco-house, the Soul Summit DJ who have been hosting the free dance events of the same name at Fort Greene Park for two decades, bring their magnificent vibes to the Elsewhere on the roof in Bushwick. (599 Johnson Avenue, 6 to 11 p.m., $ 30)
Saturday (7/3) shapes to be a great night of improvised music. Centered on the right between Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy and Bushwick, Cafe Erzulie is one of the local places having a wonderful ‘reopening’ time by hosting regular ‘jazz’ sessions featuring the city’s great young musicians. Saturday is billed as “Haitian Jazz” (according to the name Erzulie) and will include veteran Haitian expatriate musicians such as the saxophonist Buyu Ambrose and guitarist Eddy Bourjolly, preparing a party swing. (894 Broadway, 5 p.m., $ 15).
At the other end of the improvisation spectrum, Saturday (7/3) evening also finds very announced pianist Ethan Iverson, co-founder of the popular jazz trio The Bad Plus, playing a duo with an equally renowned trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, at Soap Box Gallery at Prospect Heights. (636 Dean Street, 8 p.m., $ 25)
Also Saturday (7/3) and certainly with rhythmic improvisation, but above all, a good time: 83-year-old Jamaican percussionist Larry mcdonald, who has performed with everyone from Toots & the Maytals to Gil Scott-Heron, to tenor saxophonist Anant Pradhan bring their rocksteady big-band of ten musicians from “Friends” to continue their occasional residency at Wild birds in Crown Heights. (951 Dean Street, 5 p.m., suggested donation of $ 10)
You can however dance the rest of the weekend, listening to only great Brooklyn female DJs, playing all kinds of music. The first full reopening weekend in one of the most beautiful dance spaces in the city, Nowadays in (we’ll call it) Bushwick, features a handful of the borough’s top selectors. Saturday night (7/3) is “titled” by UMFANG, a resident of an evening called “Technofeminism” if you need an introduction to her favorite rhythms; Today globally recognized sir sunday (7/4) the outdoor party will feature the deep grooves of Analog soul; and the evening Sunday evening will be chaired by Cosmos & JADALAREIGN, two young DJs whose eclectic and moving selections cross the ages. (58-06 Cooper Avenue, 10 p.m. evening / 3 p.m. daytime, $ 10-20)
Guitarist Binky Griptite first made a name for himself in New York City playing with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, as well as other artists on the classic Brooklyn soul label Dap-Tone. With his own orchestra, he explores the jump-blues of the 40s and 50s and the R&B swing. At Monday evening (7/5), they will play at Bed-Stuy Lunatico Bar. (486 Halsey Street, 9 p.m., suggested donation of $ 10)
One of the best musical and theatrical organizations in the city, Sainte-Anne warehouse in Dumbo is relaunching its free outdoor concert series, each Thursday in the evening in July and August. On July 8, they present “Spiritual Uprising”, a show of spiritual black songs, conceived and performed by the singer Zonya Amour, best known as the star of the Broadway production of The color purple. (Brooklyn Bridge Park, 7 p.m., FREE)
Blaque Dynamite is Dallas-based drummer Mike Mitchell. Blaque Dynamite is also the name of the incredible bands he leads, which effortlessly blend jazz, hip-hop, soul, funk and all the good things in between. Thursday (7/8) to Now in East Williamsburg, he will have, among others, the trumpeter Maurice “Mobetta” Brown and the guitarist Charles Altura; and his cohort Dolfin Records, the excellent producer / DJ Ben Hixon. Promise to be a good time. (290, rue Meserole, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., $ TBD)
Remember: if you’re an artist, record label, venue, or musical organization in Brooklyn (or the New York City area) that releases new music, or produces events (Brooklyn), or just makes noise that you want to disseminate in the community, please send us a message a line at [email protected]. We would love to hear it – and potentially put it on.